Nashville’s first community solar project heading to Madison

Published January 5, 2018

2 MW Solar Field
The Music City Solar Project will resemble this 2MW solar project installed by LightWave Solar in Mississippi last year.

By Nate Rau, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee – Jan. 5, 2018

Nashville is set to embark on its first community solar project following the Metro Council’s approval of a lease agreement between the city and Nashville Electric Service.

The solar array, called Music City Solar, will be installed in Madison in a brownfield on top of what was a city landfill.

Once complete, Music City Solar will generate 2.8 million kilowatt hours per year, which is enough to meet the energy needs for about 210 households annually.

The project is a public-private partnership featuring Metro, NES, the Tennessee Valley Authority, HCA, Regions Bank, Pinnacle Bank and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Antioch-based LightWave Solar will oversee the $2.4 million project’s construction and installation.

Metro Councilwoman Nancy VanReece, who represents the Madison area where Music City Solar will be installed, called the undertaking a win-win for the community as it will convert a lot that hasn’t been used for 40 years. The solar project is the first part of a broader plan that will see HCA add parking and construction of a new community pocket park

“I am very excited about Music City Solar from NES/TVA finding a welcome home in Madison near the Dickerson Pike Skyline area,” VanReece said. “The community solar array will also have a lookout and educational panels. It will be a destination for students and anyone interested in solar energy throughout the Southeast.”

NES customers asked for clean energy 

The seeds for Music City Solar were planted by power customer surveys, which NES energy services engineering manager Tony Richmond said overwhelmingly asked for clean, renewable energy source like community solar.

NES applied, and won, a TVA energy grant to construct a solar array as part of its Distributed Solar Solutions pilot program.

NES worked with Wilmot Consulting and Metro Public Works to identify the Madison landfill site.

“NES embarked on this, because it was important to our customers,” Richmond said.

Local company to oversee project

LightWave Solar President Chris Koczaja said solar energy has been growing in popularity because it is clean, increasingly affordable as more commercial and residential customers invest, and economically advantageous.

LightWave Solar has installed over 700 solar projects since the company launched in 2006, Koczaja said. The company does everything from small residential rooftop projects to larger mega-fields in the Tennessee and southeast region.

LightWave won a request for proposal bidding process from NES to earn the deal.

“It really is one of those projects where you get all of the players working together for the good of the community, and for the environment as well while framing it in an economic sense,” Koczaja said.

Koczaja said solar has gained momentum among private customers and government agencies and utilities.

“It’s really starting to catch hold across the full spectrum,” Koczaja said.

NES customers may apply to participate

A groundbreaking is scheduled for Jan. 16, after which customers may apply to participate in the project.

There is a one-time subscription cost of $215, plus tax, per solar panel, which brings an annual energy credit of about $12 per year over the approximately 20-year life of the solar field.

Investors may also make a tax-deductible donation through the Community Foundation to provide energy assistance through energy efficiency, weatherization or a solar credit for low-income customers.

Customers will participate on a first-come, first-serve basis, Richmond said. The banking partners will offer low-interest financing for customers who want to participate, Richmond said.

Music City Solar will also have an education component for students, though the details are still being ironed out.

“We look at this project as the beginning and are hopeful we will be able to do others,” Richmond said. “Folks might be interested in why they should participate. It’s an easy and affordable way to participate in a solar energy project in Nashville.

“There are no maintenance or repair costs and anybody can participate, even those who rent or own homes that may not be suitable for installation.”